It’s time for the End of the Year Awards. This is one of my favorite articles to write each year. It’s also a mandatory article per my affiliation with the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. However, it’s not a problem as I love writing these and always hope my vote helps pick the individuals I deem as the correct recipients of each individual reward. So let’s continue with the….
1. Craig Kimbrel
2. Aroldis Chapman
3. Mark Melancon
Similar to my AL winner, I think there was a clear choice at the top. After that though, the rest of the list was a little murky.
There were actually a lot of names to consider. Of the guys I picked to put on my list, only 1 was in the top 5 in the league for Saves. But I think that’s okay. It’s true that a closer’s main stat is Saves. However, getting an opportunity to Save a game has nothing to do with the closer himself. That’s why it’s something I look at, but it’s not the main stat I considered when picking this award. It’s important, but I also look for low ERAs (an ability to keep runs off the board), low WHIPs (an ability to keep runners of base) and strikeouts (the surest way to get an out). And with closers only throwing one inning I also consider BAA, though perhaps not as much as the other stats I listed. For those reasons, I stand by my list.
The other names I considered, that weren’t on my list, were the other league leaders in Saves. Trevor Rosenthal was second in the league with 45 Saves. But that came with a 3.20 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. I think both of those numbers are far too high. So while he got a lot of Saves, there were closers below him on the total Save list who I think played better, but just played on teams that didn’t afford them as many opportunities to Save a game. It was the same story for Steve Cishek and Francisco Rodriguez: lots of Saves but ERAs over 3, which weren’t as good as the others who did make my list. Also, K-Rod gave up more HRs than any other closer in the league. The last two names were closer to making the list: Kenley Jansen and Jonathan Papelbon. Jansen’s 45 Saves were third in the league while his 101 Ks were second among NL closers. But his 2.76 ERA was just a little high for my taste, though he was still very good. Papelbon actually hit all of the categories I focus on with a 2.04 ERA (very strong), 0.90 WHIP and 39 Saves. But the one thing that kept him off my list was the lower strikeout rate, as he only had 63 in 66 IP. Very good, but just not as good as the guys on my list.
Let’s finally get into my list. The number 3 man for me was Mark Melancon for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He took over as the closer after Jason Grilli was traded away. But I think that makes me more impressed with him. He had 14 Holds showing that he was excellent as a set up man. Then he continued to excel once he moved into the 9th inning role. His 33 Saves were only 8th in the league, and he took over the role late. To record that many Saves in less than a full season is impressive. On top of that, he hit all my other categories: low ERA (1.90), low WHIP (0.87) and good K rate (71 in 71 IP). Batters only hit 195 against him. He had a great season in Pittsburgh and ranked third on my list, despite only having the 8th most Saves.
Number 2 on my list is the epitome of dominance on the mound. Aroldis Chapman was only 7th in the league with 36 Saves. But he was great in the games he closed for the Reds. He led all MLB closers with 106 K in only 54 IP. He appeared in fewer innings than most other closers, but had the most Ks. That’s insane. Add to that a low ERA (2.00) and low WHIP (0.83) and Chapman hits all the important categories. And he excels in them. Opposing hitters hit only 121 against him. That’s also the lowest among closers. The hardest thrower in baseball was phenomenal once again, but only ranked second on my list.
And that’s because Craig Kimbrel continues to be the best closer in baseball. He’s not quite as overpowering, but he’s close. And he records more Saves and gives up fewer hits and runs. He led the league with 47 Saves, only 1 behind Fernando Rodney for the MLB lead. He had one of the lowest closer ERAs (1.61…lowest among full time closers in the league), had a phenomenal WHIP (0.91) and struck out 95 in 61 IP. That was good enough for 4th in the league, though out of the 3 ahead of him only 1 pitched fewer innings. So his K-rate is through the roof, he led the league in Saves and his WHIP and ERA were miniscule. His 142 BAA was second best among closers and showed that most hitters had no idea what to do against him. He’s been the best closer in the game for a while, and once again won my NL Goose Gossage Award.